Friday, 13 June 2008


Babylon 5
1x09 Deathwalker

Doctor Who [classic]
19x19 Earthshock Part One [4th watch]
19x20 Earthshock Part Two [4th watch]
19x21 Earthshock Part Three [4th watch]
19x22 Earthshock Part Four [4th watch]
See here for my thoughts on this story.

4x15 House's Head
Part one of House's two-part season finale, with a mystery that viewers without a medical degree can actually participate in: House was in a bus crash he can't remember, and must decipher clues from dreams and hallucinations to work out why he was there and what he saw. It's an interesting episode that leads to a neat cliffhanger.


Doctor Who - Decide Your Destiny: War of the Robots by Trevor Baxendale
See here for my thoughts on this book.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier by Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill
'Titles' (pages 1-8)
Prologue (pages 9-23)
This Warn You (page 24)
Contents (page 25)
See here for my thoughts on the opening 25 pages of Black Dossier.

Doctor Who: Earthshock

I should warn you, dear reader, that this review contains major spoilers for the 26-year-old Doctor Who story Earthshock; spoilers that are plastered all over the DVD cover and menus, and are the main reasons people still talk about the story. But still, in case you are in blissful ignorance and may ever see this story without stumbling upon a DVD or VHS cover, or indeed a basic plot description, I felt I should warn you.

There's a good deal to like about Earthshock -- hence why I chose it, of course. There's the fifth Doctor, who's one of my favourites (and now everyone's, I'm sure). His TARDIS may be a little over-crowded with three companions, but this story soon sorts that out -- hurrah, Adric dies! It's a fantastic mix of joy at the annoying little brat being gone and some sort of shock/sadness at the death of a companion. But it's much needed, really, as three companions is too many -- Nyssa basically stands around in the TARDIS doing sod all for four episodes. Two companions, on the other hand, is a great number, with Tegan and Adric having plenty to do. The new series should look into using this idea (dalliances with Mickey, Jack and now Martha aside). Of course, Nyssa and Tegan may get more to do now that Adric's dead (hurrah!).

Then there's the Cybermen, the series' best-ever villains (sod those bloody Daleks). In this case they may be (as the Doctor puts it) "positively flippant", but they still stomp around with a certain degree of shiny silver coolness. And they can go up stairs (as a certified Doctor Who fan I'm still allowed to make that joke -- casuals, newbies and proper journalists aren't). They get a cool reveal at the end of Part One, and cool robot minions before that, and their plan to destroy Earth with a freighter is pretty nifty too (even if the bomb-in-a-cave before it is a crap one), plus they get the honour of killing Adric. Adric dies, you know -- did I mention that? Also, any story that has the audacity to completely change its setting and most of the guest cast after an episode and a half has to be applauded, especially when it makes it work so smoothly.

Parts of Earthshock are irritating padding, it's true, and especially obvious on repeat viewings. But when you've got Beryl Reid's excellent space captain, a traditional traitor-who-falls-foul-of-his-masters (just like in Tomb), the Doctor's classic speech about emotions, and all sorts of other nice bits and pieces -- and Adric's death! -- it's quite hard not to find something to enjoy in almost every part of Earthshock.

Plus, Adric dies.

"Doctor Who - Decide Your Destiny: War of the Robots" by Trevor Baxendale

Regular Who author Trevor Baxendale joins the Decide Your Destiny stable with this sixth book in the series (which has so far made it to twelve entries), the dramatically titled War of the Robots. Baxendale's adventure is set "on a distant world populated by robots [where] war has been raging for many years. Can you, the Doctor and Martha discover why the robots are fighting and end the war once and for all?" Ooh, peaceful.

The story begins as it means to go on -- with war! Smoke, gunfire, explosions... it's all-action here. Sadly, the first time I read the book through, Baxendale fell prey to the same trap as Davey Moore, shuttling the reader from page to page without any choices. It was so brief and horridly linear that I did actually read it through again, the first time I've bothered to do that. As an exercise, this showed how unlucky you can get with the wrong choices, as a re-read (attempting to follow several paths at once, too) gave me many more options and longer, more action-packed storylines. The first time through we quickly wound up on a space station, talking a robot into stopping the war; the second time we encountered a group of humans, and wound up killing robots and battling robot dogs. Compared to this, it's a shame the somewhat dull space station alternative even exists. Elsewhere, the choices offered are decent enough (importantly, as I stress with good reason in every review, you direct your character and not the story), if never hugely different. To be fair, I imagine it must be hard to offer many branches with just over 100 segments, and it may be too harsh to pick on the story always leading to similar events -- especially when I also call for the NPCs to be doing more or less the same things in every version.

Get the right path and Baxendale's book provides an entertaining read with moderately varied choices and some exciting sequences; but get the wrong one and you'll be shuttled through a dull denouement -- possibly a common problem that I just haven't been unfortunate enough to come across before. Even with this, it's one of the series' better efforts.

Bond from the Beginning #1: Dr. No

As previously mentioned, I'm going to begin posting 'archive' reviews of the films I've so far watched on my Bond from the Beginning undertaking. Here's the first:

James Bond movies have always been utterly escapist, despite what some might claim. No film shows this better than the first -- the series didn't slide into crazy plots and fantastical creations, it began there! Dr No and his secret base are as mad as anything that follows, and Honey Ryder (in that bikini) is still the defining image of a Bond girl (almost a genre unto themselves).

The story slowly draws you in to its fantasy of villainy; the Technicolor excess must surely have made for a beautiful break from the bleak 'kitchen sink' dramas of British cinema at the time, or the bleak Cold War threat in the real world. Connery is perfect from the start, and amongst the rest of the cast only Felix Leiter feels like a mistake. The action sequences are exciting, the villains are evil, the girl is eye-catching and Bond is properly ruthless. What more do you need?

Dr. No is oft forgotten behind some of the films that follow it, but it really shouldn't be -- if this hadn't been so good we wouldn't have any more.